You’ve heard about low carbohydrate diets and keto diets, and you’re probably wondering if the Paleo diet is a keto diet. I was curious about this to, so I did some research.
A keto diet is low carbohydrate diet. One that intends to switch your body into a “fat-burner” instead of a carb-burner.
Paleo can be low carb. But it doesn’t have to be.
When you’re on a Paleo diet you avoid grains and beans (both large sources of carbs). But grains and beans are not the only sources of carbs.
Eating Paleo means you can eat fruit and starchy vegetables such as yams, potatoes and carrots which are a source of carbohydrates.
So eating Paleo can be low carb if you reduce your fruit and starchy veggies.
A Paleo diet can be a keto diet (cause you to go into Ketosis) if you reduce your carbohydrate intake from fruits and starchy veggies.
This article if for informational purposes only and is not to be used as Medical Advice. For medical advice pertaining to topics like this talk to a doctor that is well versed in nutrition and “food as medicine.”
Why would I want to go Low Carb?
Well, eating a high carbohydrate diet hasn’t done our western society many favors.
If you look at the obesity rates you’ll see the number of obese people in the USA has soared in the last 30 years.
Now this is multi-factorial but a part of it is the US government adopting a “food pyramid guide” that promoted a higher amount of carbohydrate intake. Click here to see the CDC’s database on obesity rates.
Below is a picture showing the obesity rates in the United States in 1990.
And now look at the obesity rates in 2010.
Generations of children were taught this in school that the cereal they were eating for breakfast was good for them.
By lowering the amount of carbohydrates you eat in your diet, this means your body has to switch to a different fuel supply to meet its necessary energy requirements. It becomes a fat-burning machine.
Your body begins burning off the fat you’ve got packed around your belly, buns, thighs, etc… and starts using it as a fuel source.
Many people will see an improvement in energy levels, blood sugar levels and even blood pressure levels too once they switch to a low carb diet.
Scientists are studying low carbohydrate diets to treat everything from Alzheimer’s to Epilepsy to Diabetes.
Blood pressure reduction too?
Yes, a blood pressure reduction is possible with a low carb diet. Not only will reducing your body weight reduce blood pressure, but you can start getting quite fast blood pressure reductions if you fully commit to a low-carb diet.
The reason is because of the “Sodium-glucose Cotransporter-2” (SGLT2).
This is a receptor in the proximal tubules of the kidneys.
The kidneys filter your blood and most of the glucose in your blood is dumped into the fluid which will become your urine.
BUT, the body re-absorbs most of this glucose back into the blood. You can loosely think of this as scooping all the fish out of stream using a net, and then reaching into the next, grabbing the fish and tossing the fish back into the stream.
It is the SGLT-2 receptor that re-absorbs about 90% of the glucose back into the blood (reference). So in my fish analogy, after the fish have been scooped from the stream, the SGLT2 is the one reaching into the net, grabbing the fish and tossing them back into the stream.
As the name suggests, it is a co-transporter that means when a glucose molecule is reabsorbed, so is a sodium ion. So a Glucose molecule is brought back into the body as well as a Sodium molecule.
And when Sodium is reabsorbed water follows too, so people retain more water.
This raises blood pressure. That is why doctors often prescribe diuretics to help you urinate out excess water from the body thereby decreasing blood pressure.
SGLT2 Inhibitor Drugs
They even have Diabetes drugs called SGLT2-inhibitors. These medications block these receptors. This means not as much glucose is reabsorbed back into the body: more glucose stays in the urine. Hence, there is less glucose circulating in the blood so it lowers blood sugar levels.
Imagine you’re standing above a toilet drinking a cola. These drugs help to ensure that the glucose from the soda will show up in your urine and end up in the toilet.
But why not just dump the soda in the toilet in the first place, and don’t put it into your body?
There is a precaution with these drugs that they may cause dizziness and low blood pressure and even falls. This is due – at least in part – to the fact that if your body isn’t reabsorbing as much sugar while on the drugs, you aren’t reabsorbing as much sodium either, which could lower your blood pressure.
So instead of using a drug that increases the amount of sugar you pee out, why not just put less sugar into your blood stream in the first place!
Do I need to be cautious on a low carb diet if I’m on blood pressure drugs?
When you consume less carbohydrates you will have less sugar enter your blood stream. You’ll have less sugar to pass through the kidneys. You’ll have less sugar to reabsorb meaning the SGLT2 receptors will not pull as much Sodium back into your body.
This will result in a blood pressure reduction.
So if you’re committing to a low-carb diet and you are on blood pressure-lowering medications then you need to be cautious.
You will want to get up slowly from a sitting or lying position. This will reduce your risk of falls.
If you are on a low carb diet and you experience dizziness and light headedness then you’ll need to talk to your doctor about reducing the dose of your blood pressure medications.
Many patients are able to reduce or stop blood pressure-lowering drugs if they lose weight and stick to a healthier diet. But talk to your doctor first before adjusting your meds.
Do I need to be cautious if I’m on blood sugar-lowering drugs?
If you have diabetes or if you are on medications that lower blood sugar then you should talk to your doctor or other knowledgable health professional before going low carb.
This is especially true if you inject insulin or if you are on medications that increase your production of insulin (such as Sulfonylurea drugs).
This is because drugs that cause you to pump out more insulin (or if you give yourself insulin shots) this will lower your blood sugar levels.
And if you are now eating a low-carbohydrate diet, you won’t have as much sugar in your bloodstream as before.
This could result in a low blood sugar level (also called hypoglycemia).
You’ll need to talk to your doctor and discuss a plan to lower the doses of your medications if you fully commit to a low-carbohydrate diet.
The Paleo diet can be a low carbohydrate diet if you minimize your starchy root vegetable intake (like sweet potatoes and yams), and if you minimize your fruit intake. And avoid dried fruit: these are very high in sugar.
When you adopt a low-carbohydrate diet you could potentially feel a little unwell for the first few days. This is sometimes called the “keto flu.” To help you feel better make sure you’re drinking enough water and getting enough electrolytes.
If you are on blood pressure-lowering drugs or drugs to lower your blood sugar you should speak to your doctor – or knowledgeable health professional – before going low carb.